Three strikes; you're out! Microsoft might be abandoning Surface

Subject: General Tech | October 9, 2014 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, surface, fail

It seems that Microsoft might be catching on to something everyone else in the market knew when they first announced their first foray into hardware since the Zune; software companies shouldn't annoy their customer by competing with them.  Ballmer originally tried to assuage companies like Acer by claiming that Surface was just a proof of concept, which was met by disbelief and after 3 iterations of Surface those doubts were proven to be justified. According to Microsoft the Surface 3 is a big hit overseas but as this is their first crack at those markets you can bet that the sales will follow the same precipitous drop we saw for the first Surface in North America. 

The news from DigiTimes today is that Surface 3 will be the last generation of this hybrid tablet.  It could be that Microsoft will now focus on their phones, much to the dismay of those who have used their phones though perhaps the remaining human assets from Nokia will bring forth a new generation of workable devices.

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"Microsoft continues to see weak sales for its Surface Pro 3 tablet and is reportedly planning to cancel the product line since shipment performance has been far lower than expectations, according to sources from the upstream supply chain."

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DirectX 12 Shipping with Windows 10

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 3, 2014 - 03:18 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, DirectX, DirectX 12, windows 10, threshold, windows

A Microsoft blog posting confirms: "The final version of Windows 10 will ship with DirectX 12". To me, this seems like a fairly obvious statement. The loose dates provided for both the OS and the availability of retail games suggest that the two would be launching at roughly the same time. The article also claims that DirectX 12 "Early Access" members will be able to develop with the Windows 10 Technical Preview. Apart from Unreal Engine 4 (for Epic Games subscribers), Intel will also provide source access to their Asteroids demo, shown at Siggraph 2014, to all accepted early access developers.

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Our readers might find this information slightly disappointing as it could be interpreted that DirectX 12 would not be coming to Windows 7 (or even 8.x). While it does not look as hopeful as before, they never, at any point, explicitly say that it will not come to older operating systems. It still might.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft Introduces Windows 10 to the Enterprise

Subject: General Tech | September 30, 2014 - 11:46 PM |
Tagged: windows 9, Windows 8.1, Windows 7, windows 10, windows, threshold, microsoft

The Windows event for the enterprise, which took place today in San Francisco, revealed the name of the upcoming OS. It is not Windows 9, or One Windows, or just Windows. It will be Windows 10. Other than the name, there is not really any new information from a feature or announcement standpoint (except the Command Prompt refresh that I actually will give a brief mention later). My interest comes from their mindset with this new OS -- what they are changing and what they seem to be sticking with.

If you would like Microsoft's commentary before reading mine, the keynote is embed above.

Okay, so one thing that was shown is "Continuum". If you have not seen its prototype at the end of the above video, it is currently a small notification that appears when a keyboard and mouse is attached (or detached). If a user accepts, this will flip the user interface between tablet and desktop experiences. Joe Belfiore was clear that the video clip was not yet in code, but represents their vision. In practice, it will have options for whether to ask the user or to automatically do some chosen behavior.

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In a way, you could argue that it was necessary to go through Windows 8.x to get to this point. From the demonstrations, the interface looks sensible and a landing point for users on both Windows 7 and Windows 8 paths. That said, I was fine with the original Windows 8 interface, barring a few glitches, like disappearing icons and snapping sidebars on PCs with multiple monitors. I always considered the "modern" Windows interface to be... acceptable.

It was the Windows Store certification that kept me from upgrading, and Microsoft's current stance is confusing at the very least. Today's announcement included the quote, "Organizations will also be able to create a customized store, curating store experiences that can include their choice of Store apps alongside company-owned apps into a separate employee store experience." Similar discussion was brought up and immediately glossed over during the keynote.

Who does that even apply to? Would a hobbyist developer be able to set up a repository for friends and family? Or is this relegated to businesses, leaving consumers to accept nothing more than what Microsoft allows? The concern is that I do not want Microsoft (or anyone) telling me what I can and cannot create and install on my devices. Once you build censorship, the crazies will come. They usually do.

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But onto more important things: Command Prompt had a major UX overhaul. Joe Belfiore admitted that it was mostly because most important changes were already leaked and reported on, and they wanted to surprise us with something. They sure did. You can now use typical keyboard shortcuts, shift to select, ctrl+c and ctrl+v to copy/paste, and so forth. The even allow a transparency option, which is common in other OSes to make its presence less jarring. Rather than covering over what you're doing, it makes it feel more like it overlays on top of it, especially for quick commands. At least, that is my opinion.

Tomorrow, October 1st, Microsoft will launch their "Windows Inside Program". This will give a very early glimpse at the OS for "most enthusiastic Windows fans" who are "comfortable running pre-release software that will be of variable quality". They "plan to share all the features (they) are experimenting with". They seem to actually want user feedback, a sharp contrast from their Windows 8 technical preview. My eye will on relaxing certification requirements, obviously.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft Offers Double Data (30GB) for Camera Auto-Upload

Subject: General Tech | September 22, 2014 - 03:00 AM |
Tagged: onedrive, microsoft

OneDrive has a base storage limit of 15GB for a free account. Microsoft, in promotion of a setting to automatically upload photos to their storage service, is offering an extra 15GB if you enable this feature before the end of the month. That is 30 total GBs! As of their September 10th blog post, they will also allow files of up to 10GB (!!) in size. That is a pretty big picture or movie.

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Through this initiative, Microsoft hopes that more people will sign up for OneDrive and those with accounts will integrate it into their lives. Large storage capacities, mobile apps, applications for Windows and OSX, large file support, and affordable storage tiers definitely make a compelling platform, one that puts pressure on Google and Dropbox.

The question is whether you trust Microsoft with every photo or video that comes off of any given device. While some could find it compelling to have up to 30GB of extra storage for their cameraphone, without the need to manually sync, I could see others who want to be more selective.

You can enter this promotion before "the end of the month" (which is a little vague).

Source: Microsoft

Developer's View on DirectX 12 Alongside Maxwell Launch

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 20, 2014 - 12:06 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, nvidia, microsoft, maxwell, DirectX 12, DirectX

Microsoft and NVIDIA has decided to release some information about DirectX 12 (and DirectX 11.3) alongside the launch of the Maxwell-based GeForce GTX 980 and GeForce GTX 970 graphics cards. Mostly, they announced that Microsoft teamed up with Epic Games to bring DirectX 12 to Unreal Engine 4. They currently have two demos, Elemental and Infiltrator, that are up and running with DirectX 12.

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Moreover, they have provided a form for developers who are interested in "early access" to apply for it. They continually discuss it in terms of Unreal Engine 4, but they do not explicitly say that other developers cannot apply. UE4 subscribers will get access to the Elemental demo in DX12, but it does not look like Infiltrator will be available.

DirectX 12 is expected to target games for Holiday 2015.

Source: Microsoft

Upward mobility for both Linux and Windows

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 18, 2014 - 01:11 PM |
Tagged: Red Hat, microsoft, Feedhenry

Red Hat just acquired Feedhenry for around €63.5 million to enhance their ability to support mobile apps.  Feedhenry designs mobile apps on both the client and server side which run on Android, iOS, Windows Phone, QNX and HTML5 as well as integration with apps from companies such as Salesforce, SAP and Oracle.  This purchase could help Red Hat become an attractive alternative for companies wishing to serve apps across all platforms and increased usage of Openshift and Openstack.  The Inquirer also posted news on a extension to the price discount on Microsoft's licensing for mobile developers.  They are still offering lifetime accounts for Dev Center for $19.99 for individuals and $99.99 for businesses, which compares favourably to the one time Android fee of $25 and even better against Apple's $99 per year.  If they could just get their phones to play nicely with O365 this could well increase their market share for mobile phones.

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"RED HAT HAS ACQUIRED Feedhenry, a designer of mobile apps for the enterprise market. The company sees the acquisition as a key driver to offer cross-platform support for its existing software products, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux Openstack 7, which it released earlier this year."

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Source: The Inquirer

Microsoft's Universal Mobile Keyboard Is Coming Soon

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | September 17, 2014 - 06:57 PM |
Tagged: windows, mobile, microsoft, keyboard, ios, Android

Let me share a story. There was a time, around the first Surface launch, that I worked in an electronics retail store (and the several years prior -- but I digress). At around that time, Microsoft was airing ads with people dancing around, clicking keyboards to the Surface tablet with its magnetic click or snap. One day, a customer came in looking for the keyboard from the TV spots for their iPad. I thought about it for a few seconds and realized how terrible Microsoft's branding actually was.

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Without already knowing the existence of their Windows 8 and RT tablets, which the ads were supposed to convey, it really did look like an accessory for an iPad.

Doing Microsoft's job for them, I explained the Surface Pro and Surface RT tablets along with its keyboard-cover accessories. Eventually, I told them that it was a Microsoft product for their own tablet brand and would not see an iPad release. The company felt threatened by these mobile, touch devices and was directly competing with them.

...

So Microsoft is announcing a keyboard for Windows, Android, and iOS. Sure, it is very different from the Type and Touch Covers; for instance, it does not attach to these devices magnetically. Microsoft has also been known to develop hardware, software, and services for competing platforms. While it is not unsurprising that Microsoft keyboards would work on competing devices, it does feel weird for their keyboard to have features that are specialized for these competing platforms.

There are three things interesting about this keyboard: it has a built-in stand, it has special keys for Android and iOS that are not present in Windows, and it has a built-in rechargeable battery that lasts up to 6 months. The peripheral pairs wirelessly with all of these devices through Bluetooth.

The Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard is coming soon for $79.95 (MSRP).

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft Announces Wired Xbox One Controller for Windows

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | September 17, 2014 - 03:55 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, xbox, xbone, xbox one, controller, gamepad

A few months ago, Microsoft released 32- and 64-bit drivers for their Xbox One controller on Windows 7 and Windows 8. This was for wireless controllers attached by micro-USB to a PC. Now, Microsoft announced a new controller for Windows: the same controller, only bundled with the required cable. In fact, it can still connect wirelessly... to an Xbox One, not a PC.

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The bundle will cost $59.95 (MSRP) and be available starting in November. As far as I can tell, the PC cannot update the Xbox One Controller's firmware; for that, you apparently need an Xbox One handy. It is possible that Microsoft will implement this, or already has and no-one is talking about it, but you might want to hold off until we know for a fact. One update adjusts analog stick sensitivity; this could be important, especially if you have multiple controllers at different patch levels. Yes, some PC games allow local multiplayer.

Fancy a pair of Windows 9 videos?

Subject: General Tech | September 17, 2014 - 12:25 PM |
Tagged: windows 9, microsoft, leak

The Register has linked to two videos which purportedly capture Windows 9, or at least Build 9834, in action and revealing some not so new tricks.  The first shows a feature which will be new to anyone who has never used Linux but will be old hat to anyone who has, multiple desktops.  This feature will let you have separate switchable desktops which you can run different programs on, it is not a tool to create virtual machines on the fly but is handy if you need a full desktop for development and one for ... entertainment.  The second video shows off the Start Menu, tiles and the much improved placement of the power off button.

"New videos of a "Windows 9" variant have emerged, and to this hack's eyes they look to have brought Windows up to speed with tricks that various desktop flavours of Unix have had for a decade or more."

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Source: The Register

Event on September 30th "For Windows and the Enterprise"

Subject: General Tech | September 16, 2014 - 11:01 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows, windows 9, threshold

In two weeks, Microsoft will be holding an event to communicate where Windows is going. It is expected that a public technical preview will launch either at the show, or immediately thereafter. The invitation reads, "Join us to hear about what's next for Windows and the enterprise." This seems to mean that the next version of their desktop OS, probably called Windows 9, will have a strong focus on enterprise features. Contrast this with Windows 8, which I feel comfortable saying wanted to win consumers away from iOS and Android tablets.

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Image Credit: The Verge

Virtual desktops and the Start Menu's return were strong signs, too.

Pretty much the only announcement that they could make to get me excited would be sideloading for all versions (which would also remove developer certificate requirements for those apps). I know that it is seductive from a "gatekeeper against malware" point of view, but it decimates the whole reason for having a computer. The Windows Store requirements are just too terrible. No third-party browser engines? C'mon. Microsoft has expressed their continued support of these regulations at Build, but I can hope for a surprise. Seriously Microsoft, give users the option to install what they want, regardless of the API used.

Two weeks until we know. We might even have access by then.

Source: The Verge